Gongol.com Archives: December 2014

Brian Gongol


December 2014
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December 1, 2014

Humor and Good News "Dignity, not dependency, is the ultimate gift."
If your charity isn't of the "teach a man to fish" variety, it's probably misplaced

News If there's rail-freight gridlock, the problem probably started in Chicago

Computers and the Internet Microsoft buys out an email startup

News Chris Rock's unvarnished take on the world today
He's not right about everything (who is?), but he has some important things to say

Weather and Disasters Averages don't tell the whole story
As we enter the winter of 2014, it's worth noting that 2013 ended up "normal", on average, but was made up of a lot of extremes

Water News Water affects economic growth everywhere

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December 2, 2014

The United States of America Rob Portman won't run for the White House in 2016
The Ohio Senator wants to return to the Senate. Nothing wrong with that; he's a generally good influence on Republican politics.

Computers and the Internet Sony gets hit by a serious cyberattack
It's not clear from where the attack came (though North Korea is on the list of suspects)

Business and Finance British households are now spending more than they're earning (on average, of course)

News New Wrigley Field will have two fewer video boards than originally planned
Renovations are long overdue -- the structure itself is in dire need of care. But the plans included a few too many new signs for comfort, so it's good to hear that they're scaling back.

Broadcasting "Dangermouse" is coming back to television

WHO Radio Wise Guys on Facebook


December 3, 2014

News Omaha is converting a closed Borders bookstore into a digital public library

News The fight for basic respect for women in India

Business and Finance How absurd is the new condominum tower on New York's Park Avenue?

The United States of America Secretary Hagel's parting shot as he's kicked out of the DoD

Business and Finance Chicago city council sets a $13/hour minimum wage to begin in 2019

WHO Radio Wise Guys on Facebook


December 4, 2014

News Three ways to defeat ISIS/ISIL/Al-Qaeda-Land

Business and Finance President Obama chases employers over wage stagnation

Business and Finance There's a shortage of qualified workers in the marketplace

Business and Finance Is anyone really satisfied with government regulation of taxicab service?

Computers and the Internet "Gagnam Style" broke YouTube's counters

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December 5, 2014

Computers and the Internet You have to own your digital identity in the 21st Century
Ashton Carter, the President's nominee for Secretary of Defense, apparently didn't have his own Twitter account prior to his name making it to the forefront of the news. And that let an impostor take over. No real harm comes of it for now, because the hoax was only mild. But it's a silly oversight for a high-profile official in the 21st Century. If something you own and control doesn't come up as the very first thing when you run a search for your own name (on Google or another search engine), then you have work to do.

Broadcasting A time for two anchors
(Video) Brian Williams can be quite funny, and brings a highly relatable personality to television news. But when things get rough, it's Scott Pelley you really want at the anchor desk. CBS's front man is all business, all the time.

Threats and Hazards Too many ambassadors are political awardees -- not professional diplomats
At a time when the State Department has been showing less competence than usual (over situations like Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia, to name a few)

Threats and Hazards Another long war ahead
Secretary of State Kerry says it's going to take years to fight the Al Qaeda splinter group that's taken territory in Syria and Iraq

Computers and the Internet The Department of Defense now regards Facebook as a tool of war -- for the enemy
And their security advice, while a little clunky, isn't bad for civilians to follow

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December 6, 2014

Threats and Hazards Under attack by barbarians
It will not be enough to defeat ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Al Qaeda in a conventional martial sense. The ideology must also be driven into the ground, such that nobody ever perceives it as a viable one again.

Health "Good behavior in older siblings can be as contagious as bad"

Aviation News Fire risk from air shipment of batteries

Computers and the Internet Uber arrives in Cedar Rapids

Humor and Good News Sometimes the make-good is better than never having made a mistake at all
Arby's finds a very funny way of fixing an oversight in their deal with Pepsi

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December 7, 2014

Threats and Hazards "The Chinese are not tired. The Russians are not tired. ISIS isn't tired."
Condoleezza Rice on the need for America to think about national security, even if we're exhausted of the subject.

Computers and the Internet Can anything be done to stop the proliferation of online hoaxes?
The latest to spread like wildfire is the misinformed notion that you can claim exclusive copyright to anything you post on Facebook. You cannot. Their terms explicitly give Facebook the right to use what you post however they like, and to sell it to anyone they choose.

Business and Finance Uber is being pushed to a preposterous market price
The real value of the company simply cannot equal its current price, nor anything close to it

Computers and the Internet Social-media training from the Department of Defense
What they tell soldiers, sailors, and airmen to do isn't bad advice for civilians either

Business and Finance Reconciling theology with the dismal science
There are a lot of theoretical and philosophical reasons to advocate different types of economic outcomes, but the long and short of the matter is that market forces are natural forces, like the tides. We can adapt to them and in some cases direct them in limited ways, but to pretend as though they won't prevail in the long run is to pretend that we're much more powerful than we really are.

Broadcasting Shownotes from the Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - December 7, 2014

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December 8, 2014

Science and Technology Strong evidence Mars had liquid water sometime in the past

Aviation News China asks the US for help detecting space junk
Of course, China had a role in putting it there. So much for the oft-repeated canard about long-term thinking.

Business and Finance Cheap energy provides a temporary economic stimulus to the economy
We'll miss it when it's gone. This is a bonanza and should be recognized for what it is.

Aviation News American Airlines seeks to de-commoditize air travel
They're touting new airplanes and power outlets at every seat. But good luck: The air-travel business is heavily commoditized and tends to stay that way.

News Rather than praising kids just for success, praise the process
It may well be that kids need to learn to overcome challenges more than anything else

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December 9, 2014

Business and Finance Jack Bogle: Why invest overseas when you have American opportunities?
His opinion serves to reinforce the observation that the entire world is looking to the US as the best choice for investment right now. Much of the rest of the world is just too unstable or too uncertain to merit heavy bets.

Computers and the Internet Facebook improves its internal search engine
A likely shot across the bow aimed at Google

Broadcasting You can't expect a news anchor to maintain her composure indefinitely
(Video) Not when she finds out what some people do in their free time. All giggles aside, it doesn't matter what people were doing at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare -- a deliberate leak of chlorine gas is a very serious and troubling event.

Broadcasting One gets the impression President Obama wants a show on MSNBC after his term expires
(Video) His appearance on the "Colbert Report" may be chuckle-worthy, but it certainly seems like the place he's been most comfortable in a long time

News Going to war over Chinese food
A Harvard law professor takes his mission in life a little too seriously and threatens all kinds of legal nonsense over a $4 overcharge

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December 10, 2014

Socialism Doesn't Work Pro-democracy protestors lose their fight in Hong Kong
The government is kicking them out and rolling on with a less-than-democratic process for picking an executive in 2017

Threats and Hazards $2 million in kickbacks secured Chicago's red-light camera contract
So say the Federal prosecutors involved

Business and Finance They don't build 'em like they used to
Ford has transitioned to an all-aluminum body on the F-150, and that's changing the way they're running the factory.

Computers and the Internet Some heavy lifting to be found in December's Patch Tuesday

Broadcasting A fine analysis of "The Newsroom"
The problem is that we want to be entertained by Brian Williams slow-jamming the news, but deep down we know we want Scott Pelley to do the heavy lifting of real, meaningful television journalism. And Scott Pelley is just not cut out to be a television character...so building a clever drama around a character with his nose for news isn't going to produce a naturally engaging product.

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December 12, 2014

Iowa Iowa Department of Education clamps down on early school start dates

Threats and Hazards Russia's "unprecedented" behavior in the Baltic
It's not unprecedentedly friendly. Meanwhile, the White House insists that there is no plan to send ground troops back to Iraq. While that may be superficially satisfying, it's probably not a great idea to telegraph to our enemies what we just won't do.

Business and Finance Oil prices fall and stocks go along for the tumble
It's been a whole lot of pain on paper this week. There's speculation that world oil demand will be down in 2015, and that has people worried that the global economy may be headed for trouble.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin gives farewell address

Computers and the Internet Why political campaigns use Twitter
They don't expect to change voters' minds...they want to manipulate the spin. Not a huge surprise.

Broadcasting Show notes for WHO Radio - December 12, 2014
Live from 4pm to 6pm CT on WHO Radio

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December 13, 2014

Threats and Hazards The terrible humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq

Computers and the Internet Woman sent to prison for five years for promoting terrorism on Facebook
She lives in the UK, and inciting terrorism -- even if she's trying to incite it in Syria -- is against the law there

Computers and the Internet Firefox dumps Google search for Yahoo
An interesting move; Yahoo hasn't really been a meaningful independent player in search for some time. But Firefox, which is trying a sort of brand-reboot after having given up quite a lot of ground to the Google Chrome browser, is now in a five-year agreement with Yahoo to provide Yahoo as the default search engine (while still listing others). Yahoo, meanwhile, is reciprocating by encouraging users of its properties to "upgrade" to Firefox.

Computers and the Internet YouTube builds in a GIF maker
A smart adaptation to new uses of old technology. There's nothing new about GIFs, but people are using them in lots of social-media applications that otherwise don't allow for easy video consumption.

Science and Technology An awesome visualization of the phases of the Moon

Computers and the Internet Heavy rains knocked out power to San Francisco, and that hurts the tech industry


Computers and the Internet Seagate rolls out 8-terabyte hard drive for $260

Health We're screwing up anti-microbial treatments, and it's going to have costly consequences


Computers and the Internet Google is pulling its engineering operations out of Russia
Rumor has it the company doesn't want to have to follow a law that requires them to store data about Russian users on Russian-based computers

Computers and the Internet Google's core revenues from search-related advertising may be tapering off

Iowa Farewell to the Merle Hay Cinema

News Washington Post says President Obama had the worst year in Washington
And he largely brought it upon himself

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December 16, 2014

Threats and Hazards Taliban members kill 140 people at a school in Pakistan
There's really no way to measure the kind of cowardice it takes to kill kids who are simply trying to go to school. Any political system, group, or philosophy that thinks schoolchildren -- kids simply learning to read and write and think for themselves -- isn't worthy of the 21st Century and should be wiped from the face of the earth.

Business and Finance Advice for personal productivity
Much of it is really good (schedule relentlessly, plan ahead, focus on your high-value work). Some of it is junk (to-do lists are valuable, no matter what the author says -- it's simply up to the individual to use them in the way that motivates them most effectively). Productivity advice is so heavily dependent upon personality factors that these kinds of prescriptive pieces have to be taken with a grain of salt.

Humor and Good News Progress made by humanity in 2014

Broadcasting "Radio continues to be a useful, profitable technology"

Humor and Good News Mother calls C-SPAN to chastise her pundit sons for arguing

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December 17, 2014

News US and Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations

Business and Finance Russian ruble in trouble
Plummeting oil prices can't be helping

Business and Finance Federal Reserve: Nothing to see here. Just move along, people.
They're now adopting "patience" as a policy for raising interest rates

Socialism Doesn't Work Dallas theater will run "Team America" in place of cancelled North Korea film
Sony cancelled the release after Carmike, AMC, Cinemark, and Regal said they wouldn't show it.

Computers and the Internet Social-engineering attack targets Iowa utilities

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December 18, 2014

Computers and the Internet How will Russians preserve savings as the ruble plummets?
Some may turn to crypto-currency

Computers and the Internet BlackBerry says: Bring back the tactile keyboard
And they're so doing with the new BlackBerry Classic

Health It turns out you don't really "burn" fat, you breathe it out

Computers and the Internet China takes a terribly short-sighted move towards purging foreign-made technology

News The "elf on a shelf" is a creepy way to get your kids comfortable with living in a police state

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December 19, 2014

Threats and Hazards FBI puts blame for Sony hacking directly on North Korea
President Obama's response: "We will respond proportionately and in a space, time and manner that we choose."

Threats and Hazards Russia's economic (and therefore political) situation is "extremely grave"
Says the former head of the European Central Bank

Threats and Hazards Pentagon migrates the name of ISIS/ISIL to "Daesh"
You can't fight an evil until you name it

Computers and the Internet Laptop with health records on 2,800 people stolen in Chicago

News Paramount nixes showing of "Team America: World Police"


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December 20, 2014

Computers and the Internet 2014 was a good year for Microsoft under new CEO

Threats and Hazards Why everyone should know self-defense: Case study #15
Rahm Emanuel's son was robbed near home by two male attackers using a chokehold and their fists. If the mayor's own son isn't safe to walk down the street, who is?

News Michele Bachmann leaves Congress

Broadcasting Farewell for now to Craig Ferguson on television
But it looks like he'll be back on the air soon...just not on the "Late Late Show". Television will be worse off without him in the meantime.

Computers and the Internet Facebook's popularity continues drooping among teenagers

Computers and the Internet Watch out for vulnerabilities in cheap holiday tablets

Broadcasting Show notes: WHO Radio Wise Guys - December 20, 2014

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December 21, 2014

Broadcasting Radio shownotes - Brian Gongol Show - December 21, 2014

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December 22, 2014

Business and Finance Inflation at work, college football edition
Assistant coaches at the University of Iowa are getting pay increases that far outstrip the change in the cost of living

News Pope Francis takes on the Vatican bureaucracy

News The world's largest ship will process natural gas offshore
It's going to be a floating liquified natural gas processing plant for Shell, and it's massive

News Saudi Arabia won't cut oil production
Or at least so they say. That's bad news for higher-cost oil producers (read: everybody else), but especially for countries that depend heavily upon oil profits, like Russia and Iran.

Health Why it may help to whistle while you work
It may serve to occupy the brain during routine tasks so you don't over-think things and psych yourself out

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December 23, 2014

Threats and Hazards The horrifying specter of what's happening in Iraq and Syria
The terrorist group there is hardening into a state, and a ghastly one

Threats and Hazards Surprise! Red-light cameras tied to too-short yellow-light cycles in Chicago
The result? More rear-end crashes. Still no evidence to be shown that red-light cameras are really about safety; they're all about the ticket revenues.

Iowa Iowa officials may try for a hands-free mandate for phone use while driving

Computers and the Internet Ello explained

Health One way to move away from poverty: Get people better cooking stoves
(Video) Some of the things that are so easily taken for granted in rich countries make us less capable of recognizing simple steps that can be taken to improve the dignity and quality of life for people living in poor countries -- like providing access to better ways of cooking food. It's a much more powerful idea than one might think.

WHO Radio Wise Guys on Facebook


December 24, 2014

News Police shootings should be systematically addressed just like airplane crashes
We need to understand what causes the escalations and how to achieve de-escalation whenever possible

Business and Finance Personal income went a little up in November
But personal saving went down -- now to 4.4% of disposable personal income

Threats and Hazards Terrorist recruits to Syria and Iraq may be joining for sex
There are many layers on which the problem of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh has to be addressed: (1) True believers, (2) soft sympathizers, (3) indifferent bystanders, (4) weak-minded followers, and (5) unwilling hostages and victims -- just to name a few

Computers and the Internet Apple users get an automatic security update
It's not something they're used to getting -- but a security vulnerability in the OS X had to be fixed

Business and Finance How US households are reducing debt


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December 25, 2014

Computers and the Internet Google says the self-driving car is now at the official prototype phase

Computers and the Internet Why grandparents might be the next frontier for Snapchat

Computers and the Internet Mediacom customers suffer e-mail outage
It was company-wide and lasted for a while. It's a good example why people with mission-critical e-mail needs should have a dedicated domain name with e-mail routing that sends messages to at least two different destinations (like an ISP e-mail service and Gmail).

Health A cartoon explanation of vaccines

Iowa Steady population growth in Iowa and Nebraska
But it's steadily low growth -- much lower than fast-growing states. Still, that's better than shrinkage. Minnesota added more people.

WHO Radio Wise Guys on Facebook


December 26, 2014

Computers and the Internet "Lizard Squad" claims responsibility for knocking out Xbox and PlayStation live networks on Christmas
Whoever they are and whatever their intentions, expect to see a meaningful increase in online mischief and criminality as Russia's economy shrinks

Threats and Hazards "Imagine if you could have tweeted at the Nazis"
A journalist recaps her encounters with -- and analysis of -- terrorist sympathizers who are using Western communication tools like Twitter to promote a very un-Western war

Business and Finance China's central bank is making money cheaper
And that's probably going to keep on driving growth in the Chinese stock market, even if real growth turns out to be in shorter supply than before

Computers and the Internet Uber claims its rides-for-hire service is making more money for drivers while cutting prices for customers
The optimal place for driving-for-fares is somewhere on the continuum between Uber's unregulated but feedback-driven system and the heavily-regulated (but not necessarily for the benefit of public health and safety) taxi system. It's probably a lot closer to the Uber end of that spectrum.

Computers and the Internet How Facebook's "year in review" may be cruel automatically
Because Facebook "likes" don't really distinguish between things people actually like and the general-purpose use of the "like" simply to express solidarity, support, or acknowledgment, there are lots of people getting automated looks at their past year that try to frame sad moments as though they are celebratory. There's a long way to go before these kinds of errors are properly avoided.

Socialism Doesn't Work North Korea tries escalation after "The Interview" hits theaters
The North Korean propaganda agency is in a tizzy over "The Interview"

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December 27, 2014

The American Way A perfect economic system (or something close to it)
Incentives for those who will work. A safety net for those who can't. A fair but firm push for those who won't.

Business and Finance What to do with middle-skill workers?

Business and Finance China becomes emergency lender to Russia
They're trying to prop up the ruble -- exactly as predicted -- and it reflects the country's intentions to win friends (or at least loyal supplicants) on the world stage

Threats and Hazards Suicide epidemic in a small town
There's no doubt that mental wellness has a contagious component. Less stigma, more realistic approaches to helping people.

News Journalists need to know what's paying the bills
And the advertising side of the business needs to know what the product they're selling is really out to do

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - December 27, 2014

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December 28, 2014

Threats and Hazards What's gone wrong with the Secret Service?
Washington Post analysis: Too many new duties after 9/11, getting shuffled into a new DHS bureaucracy, and -- in no small measure -- a loss of experienced workers and a huge degree of distrust of management by the rank-and-file

News Russia's economic woes partially tie back to its takeover of Crimea
War can't be examined in isolation from economics. Russia may be on track to burn through its fiscal reserves in a matter of just a couple of years. What happens next is probably not going to be pretty.

Health Whooping cough may be evolving to evade immunization
That's scary. What's worse is the thought that people are choosing to exempt themselves and their children from immunization programs, which only opens the door further to the risk of the disease among the population as a whole. The awful movement that steers people away from vaccines is only weakening the immunity of the human species at large. We clearly have enough to worry about with the natural evolution of our viral enemies without some of our fellow people turning into traitors against us all.

News Why everyone should know self-defense: Case study #16
A crowded Chicagoland mall was evacuated and closed after a fight broke out in the food court. Good people need to know how to protect themselves and de-escalate situations with authority.

Science and Technology Is there really anything wrong with disposable technology?
A British engineering professor bemoans the fact that young people generally don't know how to fix their gadgets, but is it really a bad thing that the technology itself improves so quickly that there's little incentive to keep up with the details?

Broadcasting Show notes - The Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - December 28, 2014
Airing live at 9 pm Central; streaming at whoradio.com/listen

@briangongol on Twitter


December 29, 2014

Socialism Doesn't Work China blocks Gmail
Because nothing is worse for an authoritarian government than people who can think for themselves and exchange those thoughts with others in relative privacy and freedom. Let's not forget that mundane-seeming technologies like the fax machine helped undermine the Soviet Union.

Business and Finance Who owns what in America

Business and Finance America's most unpopular companies

Threats and Hazards ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh turns on its own

Business and Finance Japan's savings rate has turned negative
That's a first

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December 30, 2014

Business and Finance Cheap work eventually runs out
China's labor costs have risen enough to meaningfully diminish the country's competitive advantage. The boom didn't really last long by historical standards.

Computers and the Internet Facebook admits its automatic "year in review" might have missed the mark for some people
You might think that a quick glance at the global and national data alone might have suggested that not everything we talk about on Facebook is stuff we'd like to relive...but perhaps these things do not occur to the wunderkinds. And, to be quite honest, the apology as shared with the Washington Post was actually a bit tone-deaf in itself.

Computers and the Internet More Apple products were activated over Christmas than those of any other manufacturer
So says Yahoo analytics subsidiary Flurry, which says "Apple accounted for 51% of the new device activations" right around Christmas.

News
Team planning Obama Presidential library is worried about Chicago proposals
The hilarious part: Most of their concerns have to do with political uncertainty, and whether the government and public agencies involved will actually supply the things they want for the library to go through. This, from a group planning a library to honor a Presidential administration that has shown a remarkable affinity for capricious initiation and execution of rules to advance its own political agenda, with great disregard for the consequences to the people who have to live by those rules and laws.

Science and Technology German transition to renewable energy is painful
There are lots of moving parts to the system -- and it appears that they aren't being very well coordinated. Germans are as a result paying a very high price for electricity without a mountain of attending benefits.

Recent radio shows on demand


December 31, 2014

The United States of America The Fugio Cent: Benjamin Franklin's admonition to the country
Franklin designed a penny with the image of a sundial and the word "Fugio" (Latin for "I fly"...thus suggesting "Time flies"), and a slogan saying "Mind your business". It's entirely possible -- maybe even likely -- that he intended for the ambiguity of that particular phrasing. "Mind your business" certainly literally means "Attend to your work", but it also can be another way to say "Mind your (own) business". How delightfully American.

Business and Finance Outside investors aren't enamored -- at all -- with Japanese stocks
Bloomberg reports that investment inflows are dropped by 94% from 2013 into 2014. To the contrarian investor, it's certainly a signal worth investigating.

Health Psychological conclusions reached in 2014 that could make for a happier year ahead

Business and Finance What is wrong with the open-plan workplace
Distractions from noise alone probably reduce quite a lot of any gains to be had from "easier collaboration"

Business and Finance Fifteen out-of-left-field predictions for 2015
Some will be right, many will be very wrong. Most valuable as an exercise in considering some of the outside circumstances that could mess with the status quo in the year ahead.

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